overnights

Outlander Recap: The Spark to Light the Fuse

Outlander

Do No Harm
Season 4 Episode 2
Editor’s Rating *****

Outlander

Do No Harm
Season 4 Episode 2
Editor’s Rating *****
Photo: Aimee Spinks/Starz Entertainment, LLC

Hello, Outlander friends! I’m sure you arrived at this recap expecting our fearless leader Nicole to guide us through the continued sexy time-traveling insanity that is Outlander, so I regret to inform you that she had to take a quick trip through the rocks and you’re stuck with me. If Nicole is our Jamie, I’m like our Young Ian — and for that, I am truly sorry.

Alas, like Jamie and Claire still processing what the hell happened with Bonnet, we must forge on down this recap river. Poor Jamie really is taking Bonnet’s attack hard. Since he’s the one who helped Bonnet escape execution, he considers this and any other crimes the dude may go on to commit yet ANOTHER burden for him to bear. No wonder Jamie’s so jacked. He’s carrying so much guilt! To make things worse — things can always get worse for the Frasers — when Bonnet took the gemstones, he rendered Jamie and Claire penniless. Not to worry, says Claire, still an optimist despite, well, her entire life. They’ve arrived at River Run — surely Aunt Jocasta will help them out.

Claire will regret that line of thinking after about five minutes at River Run, once she realizes it’s a huge plantation and Aunt Jocasta keeps over 100 people as her property. For the rest of the episode, Claire’s face goes back and forth between utter nausea and utter horror, so to put it mildly — she wants nothing from Jocasta.

If you were dreading Outlander’s arrival at River Run, you were not alone. The show isn’t exactly known for its nuance and particularly after the whole Jamaica storyline, how it would handle a depiction of slavery in 18th-century North Carolina was a worrying question. And once again, the show chooses to focus on how the horrors of slavery make Claire feel.

The central conflict of “Do No Harm” is Claire’s fearlessness in making her opposition to slavery known in the face of Jocasta’s strict adherence to the “law of the land.” Sure, Jamie and his aunt have a warm reunion, and Jamie seems moved to have a small piece of his mother back, but things get incredibly uncomfortable when Jocasta pulls a move from the MacKenzie playbook and publicly announces to all of Cross Creek high society that she has named Jamie the heir to and master of River Run before even saying so to him. Jamie would be impressed if he weren’t so angry.

And Jamie and Claire aren’t the only ones who are put off by the news: Welcome Lieutenant Wolff to the Outlander Universe. Or don’t. He’s an English Navy guy who says things like, “The savages should be grateful we’re here,” so, like, you get what kind of dude he is. He’s been angling to marry Jocasta and take over River Run for years, so he’s not particularly happy to see a strapping Scot roll up, school him on what crops are best to plant along the river, and then get handed the land he covets.

Oh, but there is a new character who isn’t wholly detestable! John Quincy Myers shows up — in a much less dramatic fashion than he does in the Outlander books, which involves a hernia operation during a dinner party — bringing with him some much-needed liveliness that had been missing from this show. He de-skunks our precious Rollo, gives Young Ian a lesson in 18th-century man-scaping, and helps the youngster realize his hot take on Native Americans — they’re just like Highlanders! It’s a message Outlander will no doubt hit hard this season. Myers is basically the only person who knows the back country of North Carolina at this point, so he’ll be handy to have around. Also, here for the beard.

But all of that will have to wait, because tensions are still rising at River Run. Jocasta and Claire have a prickly conversation in front of Phaedre — an enslaved woman who works inside the estate and bonds with Claire — in which, after some prodding from Jocasta, Claire flat-out tells her where she stands on slavery. Jocasta calls her “lively” and the women go about their business — but it’s clear that lines have been drawn. Poor Phaedre just has to stand there and listen to the whole thing.

Jocasta sees Claire’s influence at work when Jamie declares that the only way he’ll accept being named the master of River Run is if the slaves are liberated. You see, he and Claire had a nice little chat about how if he accepts Jocasta’s offer, maybe he could change things. Maybe they, the hunky Scot and the time-traveling doctor who just arrived in this New World, could be the “spark” that lights “the fuse.” Even Claire is like, Oh, honey.

Claire tries to warn her husband that he’s maybe simplifying things a little too much, but it takes a chat with Jocasta and her advisor Campbell to really drive the point home. There are extensive laws in place to keep things on the side of plantation owners. And more than being nearly impossible and expensive to liberate River Run at this point in time, Jamie will surely draw the ire of all of the other landowners in the area, and with that would come consequences for everyone involved. People have tried to do this before and they’ve straight up disappeared, Campbell warns him.

Just how dangerous a situation the Frasers have created at River Run becomes even clearer following an incident in which a slave named Rufus cuts the ear of River Run’s overseer. The law states that Rufus must be executed for his crime. By the time the Frasers arrive to defuse the situation, the overseer has already decided to take matters into his own hands and brutally attempts to murder Rufus — also against the law. Jamie whips out his pistols like he’s Wolverine, except with old-timey guns, and Claire gets Rufus back to the house, where she operates on him, saving his life.

Meanwhile, word of the incident has spread and a whole mob — torches and all! — have arrived on Jocasta’s doorstep, demanding that Rufus be turned over to them and hanged. Jocasta tries to figure out a way to broker a deal with the angry mob that doesn’t end with them burning River Run to the ground. Ulysses, another enslaved man who acts as Jocasta’s right-hand man, pulls Claire aside and tells her that by saving him, she just made things worse for Rufus. Claire and Jamie realize they have run out of good options.

This is a no-win situation. If they attempt to help Rufus escape, others will be executed in his place. If they hand him over, well, it will be unspeakable. So Jamie asks Claire to give Rufus the same thing she gave to Colum when he asked to die peacefully. And she does, reminding us all to never accept a cup of tea from this woman. Rufus dies peacefully before they have to hand him over to the mob of men. There was no good way out of this impossible situation, and the Frasers are at a loss.

Suddenly, that offer from Governor Tryon to start a life on their own land, even knowing it will make things tricky when the Revolutionary War starts, sounds pretty good.

Outlander Recap: The Spark to Light the Fuse